Railway Abandons Operations Today After Half Century of Serving Area
With a large wreath on the front of its giant engine, presented
by the Retail Merchants division of the Warsaw Chamber of Commerce
as a fitting farewell to an institution which has served this
community for nearly a half century, the last train of the Winona
Railway at 11 a.m. today started its "sentimental journey"
to New Paris and back.
The huge propane electric locomotive with Ralph Justus, veteran engineman at the controls, pulled two gondola cars loaded with former officials and employees of the railroad and interested citizens. The group making the final run numbered about 60. Chairs had been installed in the cars to add comfort for the 40 mile trip to the north terminus of the line and back again to Warsaw, the headquarters of the company throughout its history.
The train was halted on Center street in the block between Center and Indiana streets, with the engine headed west. Bill Mollenhour, of the Times-Union and WRSW staff, as spokesman for the day, delivered a short address which was concluded with the presentation of a five-foot wreath by a committee of the Warsaw Chamber of Commerce to Garold Horrick, vice president of the line. The presentation was made by Ivan Kay, William Wagner, Harold Garwick and Clarence Heitman. The wreath bearing the inscription on red ribbon, "Farewell, Warsaw merchants" was attached to the front of the engine.
Helps Build Area
Mollenhour, speaking from the front of the engine over a public address system supplied by Wilbur Neer said in part: "The community recognizes the tremendous contribution the Winona railroad has made to the present welfare of the trading area. Through the foresight and the tenacity of its officers and employees, the railroad created a flow of traffic through the communities on its right-of-way which will last for many years after the railroad is gone.
In connection with the presentation of the huge wreath, Mollenhour said: "on behalf of every citizen of the community, as the Winona railroad moves off to that never ending line where all old railroads go, we wish it a clear track and green signals forever."
On the train as it pulled away from the Warsaw business district for its final run, were many of the old employees and former officials of the railroad, some with service dating back to the time when the line operated under the named Winona Interurban railway company, using electric interurban cars and carrying only passengers, baggage and express. Noticeable in the group were Allen Shaffer, of Warsaw who has ended longest service with the company and Lon Cassel, one of the line's first conductors who appeared wearing his old conductor's cap and uniform.
The start of the trip was delayed about an hour because of precautions taken in using the old switch at the corner of Center and Detroit streets and the long-unused track from that corner to Buffalo street. The big engine made the first trip over the route without the two gondola cars and having traveled the course successfully, returned to the car barns on North Detroit street, to pick up the loaded gondolas. The trip was made without incident but not without a lot of work to open the switch. Officer Thomas VanDeGrift, on a motorcycle, acted as a police escort.
Many professional and amateur cameramen were on hand to take pictures of the old train and of individuals in the group.
The schedule for the program, marking the end of the railroad, included a trip to New Paris and stop at a restaurant at the intersections of Roads 15 and 6 for lunch on the return journey.
Starts in 1902
The Winona Railroad came into operation in 1902 when the Pennsylvania Railroad announced that it was going to doubletrack its entire line from Chicago to Pittsburgh and the sidetrack on which a local train brought visitors to Winona from Warsaw would no longer be available.
By the summer of 1903 directors of the Winona Christian Assembly had completed a trolley line between the two towns. The 18 open cars ran on an hourly schedule, sometimes carrying 15,000 passengers in one day for special events at Winona.
Track ballasting material came from a gravel pit on the old Boss farm just east of Argonne road. From this pit the Winona directors sold gravel also to the city of Warsaw for grading streets.
The first power plant which furnished electricity for the Warsaw-Winona line is now part of the Litchfield creamery boiler room.
Goshen, Warsaw, Peru and towns along the way voted subsidies totaling $170,000 on condition that the Winona Interurban Railway build a high speed electric railway north and south connecting with other interurban systems that had spread all over Indiana.
The north line to Goshen was started in 1905 with the first cars running by June of the following summer. The south section was completed in 1907. A large powerhouse, costing $200,000 was constructed where the Gatke corporation now stands. It supplied the additional power needed for the 70-mile system and also provided steam heat and electricity to all the public buildings at Winona and about 50 private homes in the town. Electricity as well as water were supplied by the railroad to the city of Warsaw.
Winona Railroad officials even planned to expand with new lines east to Fort Wayne and west to Valparaiso, but these sections were never built, although franchise for the routes were secured. Directors of the Assembly were said to have invested $1,500,000 of their own funds in the railroad. All stock was owned by the Assembly and all profits above the interest on the bonds went into the improvement of Winona Lake as a chautauqua and religious center.
With the coming of the automobile the steady overall attendance at Winona events decreased and the year 1915 saw the Assembly in serious financial difficulty. In July 1916 the mortgage on the Goshen-Warsaw line was foreclosed and the road went into receivership.
Theodore Frazer, who had become president of the Winona Light and Water company in 1910 headed that company until he went into the army in 1917, serving as a captain of engineers. Following World War I, Mr. Frazer returned to Warsaw to become secretary of the Dalton Foundries in June 1924 and became associated with the Winona Railroad Co. He was vice president of the utility until 1932 when he was appointed receiver during the darkest days of the depression.
Meanwhile interurban systems throughout the country were failing but a freight handling business, inaugurated in 1924, aided the Winona considerably as it serviced nine steam railroads connecting with its 66-mile routes. When Goshen residents petitioned to have the tracks in their city removed, passenger service to the Winona railroad's northernmost point ceased in 1934. The only passenger service operated by the railroad was on the three mile run between Warsaw and Winona. The latest street car ran July 4, 1938 and buses took over the passenger route after that.
Under Frazer's management, the Winona recovered from its precarious financial position and the receivership was relieved in 1936 with Frazer becoming president of the railroad. Under his driving determination the road was modernized, becoming a diesel powered freight feeder line in 1938.
In January 1945 Frazer announced the sale of the bonds, stocks and physical assets of the 66-mile railroad to a syndicate including Claude L. Jackson, of Chicago. The latter was named the new Winona Railroad president.
Frazer died April 4, 1946. Garold Horrick, who started with the Winona Railroad in 1926, was made vice president in 1946 and continued in that capacity when a group headed by Jackson purchased all the outstanding capital stock and bonds of the railroad.
Increasing operating costs after World War II, less demand for tank car shipping of oil and smaller orders for coal shipment were factors in the company's decision to cease operations. The first petition in 1949 to abandon the New Paris-Warsaw section was denied by the Interstate Commerce commission in 1950. The ICC did grant the resubmitted appeal in 1951, specifying that industries along the route serviced by the Winona must have time to make other transportation arrangements for their needs before the local railroad could cease operations. Satisfactory arrangements were completed this spring.
Warsaw Times Union Saturday May 31, 1951
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